When Michael Ray takes the stage at the Clyde Theatre on Nov. 2, he does so as a newlywed. Married on Oct. 6 to fellow country music star Carly Pearce, Ray could be sitting on a beach somewhere.
Instead, he’s continuing to tour the country — and even the United Kingdom — in support of his second album, 2018’s Amos.
But the beach trip will come.
Making the Most of his career
“We had to hit the ground running again,” Ray said in an interview with Whatzup. “But we have some time off in December, so we’re heading to Jamaica for a belated honeymoon.”
In the meantime, the young singer is making the most of a career that has taken off in recent years. It’s a long way from his beginnings in Florida where he began his life in music by finally fulfilling his grandfather’s dream of a musician in the family to follow in his footsteps.
“My grandfather was Amos, and I titled my second album after him,” Ray said. “He was into music. My whole family was into music. I was the only grandson at the time which made him happy. My dad had two daughters before me, and he tried to get them interested in music. But I started playing music with him. After he taught me my first few chords, I eventually started playing with his band.”
His grandfather passed away five years ago, but not before seeing his grandson and protégé launch his career in country music.
“At that point I had my first single playing on a country radio station in Florida,” Ray said. “It was great because a relationship with a grandparent, it’s a bond like no other. It’s really cool, and I think we don’t realize when we’re younger just how special it is. And then to lose one of them…but not everybody gets that lucky to have a long relationship with a grandparent like that.”
Although his grandfather didn’t live to see all of his success, Ray is happy that Grandpa Amos saw as much as he did — and that he helped him make a life-altering decision.
“He lived to see me have a song on Florida radio and for a big sold-out show at the House of Blues,” Ray said. “When I decided to move to Nashville, my first calls were to him and my dad to see what they thought. I had really reached the top of where I could in Florida, and they were both so encouraging about moving. My grandfather said, ‘You can always move back.’ He knew I didn’t want to look back in 20 years, 50 years and wonder what might have been. He taught me that you’re not promised tomorrow, and my greatest fear is to look back on my life with regret. So he didn’t live to see me have a number one hit or play at the Grand Old Opry, but he got to see a lot.”
A Call out of nowhere
After years of working hard and making a gradual move toward country stardom, a call out of nowhere led to a definite somewhere.
“It really turned out to be a bigger than me moment,” Ray said. “At the time I was living in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house with five other people and just trying to make it. I was a fan of traditional country music so the plan was to play bars. This was before Instagram, before a lot of the social media was happening. YouTube was starting to take off about then, but my plan was to do what Loretta did, what Hank Sr. did, just travel around playing bars one by one.
“Then I got a call from The Next, and I’d never heard of it. They’d seen videos of me on YouTube that fans had posted. From then until I won it, everything was a whirlwind. After eight years of grinding it out, suddenly eight months later I had all this attention from the labels. It really sped up the process. And I’ve worked a lot with John Rich who was my mentor on the show.”
Those eight years of grinding it out did at least prepare him for sudden stardom. Sort of.
Prepared for sudden stardom
“You can’t ever be fully prepared for it,” Ray admitted. “You just don’t know all the ins and outs when it happens for you. But I think I was a good 80 percent ready, and the rest I’ve been learning ever since. The grinding it out prepared me for the long travel days and the general grind of doing what I’m doing.”
With Amos more than a year old, Ray is already working on the next album. Touring, writing, recording, and getting married all promise to keep him busy in the year ahead.
“We’ve already recorded two new songs and are recording two more next month,” Ray said. “Then I’m taking January off so I can work on the songs for the third album. The key is to never stop creating, and I’m really ready for the next one to come out.”